Protea is both the botanical name and the English common name of a genus of South African flowering plants, sometimes also called sugarbushes (Afrikaans: suikerbos)
The Proteaceae family to which proteas belong is an ancient one. Its ancestors grew in Gondwana, 300 million years ago. Proteaceae is divided into two subfamilies: the Proteoideae, best represented in southern Africa, and the Grevilleoideae, concentrated in Australia and South America and the other smaller segments of Gondwana that are now part of eastern Asia. Africa shares only one genus with Madagascar, whereas South America and Australia share many common genera — this indicates they separated from Africa before they separated from each other.
Proteas attracted the attention of botanists visiting the Cape of Good Hope in the 17th century. Many species were introduced to Europe in the 18th century, enjoying a unique popularity at the time amongst botanists.